45–60-aastaste internetikasutajate kasutuspraktika – kogemused, vajadused ja võimalused. Süvaintervjuud think-aloud meetodil



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The goal of this bachelor’s thesis is to provide a high-quality overview of the practices of 45- to 60-year-old Internet users, to ascertain problems related to and find solutions for more actively involving this user group in the information society, and thereby, to reduce social stratification. The second goal of this research paper is to test the relatively new think aloud method for Internet research and to evaluate its suitability for research on Internet use. Since this method has not been used before for this purpose in Estonia, this is a pilot study of Internet use using the think aloud method. Based on the theories of information stratification and a digital gap that characterizes contemporary Internet use and Internet users, and the results of earlier studies described in the theoretical section, I searched for answers to the following research questions in my paper: o What are the skill levels of 45- to 65-year-old Internet users (based on the observance of actual Internet use based on the think aloud method)? o Why are 45- to 65-year-old Internet users either infrequent users or only users of public and practical information (based on previous studies)? o Is the Estonian-language Internet able to provide sufficiently interesting information and content for 45- to 65-year-old Internet users? o Would it be possible to create additional Internet environments or solutions that would promote Internet use among the given age group? E-commerce possibilities. o Is the think aloud method suitable for studies on Internet use? Based on the aforementioned research questions, I established the following hypotheses for the research paper: - The Internet could be simpler and provide more explanations - If socially more interesting information existed, infrequent users would make more use of the Internet - The Internet could be the primary environment to connect middle-aged people - There is a need in the given age group for a central portal that would be created with the interests, wishes and needs of the people in this age group in mind In order to find answers to the established research questions and to check on the validity of the hypotheses, I used a combined qualitative research method, in which I connected semistructured interviews and practical Internet use assignments using think aloud methods. The sample comprised four respondents aged 45 to 60, who are typical representatives of their age group in respect to Internet use – infrequent users or users of public and practical information (Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt & Kalvet 2008:24-25). To analyse the research results, I used qualitative content analysis and received the following answers to the research questions. The main reasons for only using the practical part of the Internet were: - lack of time - different habits and wishes in consuming news and entertainment - lack of the necessary user skills - absent or limited English-language proficiency - access barriers The problem is not the shortage of information or content on the Internet but rather poor user skills for finding this information. All the respondents thought that interesting and necessary information exists somewhere on the Internet, but they were not capable of finding it. The respondents did not feel that the existence of a special portal directed at middle-aged and older people was necessary. At the same time, the clear need for a simpler and clearer Internet environment, which takes the skill level of this target group into consideration and assembles the majority of the information that might be of interest to them, became clear from both the interviews and the think aloud protocols. The second need that became apparent from the research was that for an Internet instruction manual on the Internet – a website with step-by-step instructions for learning how to use the Internet by oneself. I consider the creation of a central portal that focuses on middleaged and older people as a business project to be quite risky and find that it would be practical to develop the given project in cooperation with the public and third sector. By analysing the interviews and think aloud protocols, I arrived at the conclusion that in addition to skills, time resources and access barriers, the main factor determining the Internet use of 45- to 60-year-old Internet users is current usage habits. In order to find the answers to the research questions I had established, I combined qualitative semi-structured interviews and practical Internet use assignments using think aloud methods. I assess the chosen research method to be suitable based on the research questions and hypotheses as well as by analysing the interviews carried out and the fulfilment of the assignments, and find that I achieved the desired qualitative result with the help of this method. At the same time, I believe that the think aloud method used separately is and will remain primarily suited for the research and analysis of specific applications, where an intended or recommended process for use or solution exists, and its logic, userfriendliness, etc. is tested using this method (Hoppmann 2005, Someren et al. 1994). An unequivocal goal is established for all the participants, and with the help of the method, valuable comparative information is collected. In summary, by examining the collected qualitative empirical material and the quantity of valuable information and conclusions, I think that my bachelor’s thesis provides a good platform for further theoretical studies in the digital or information stratification field while also being useful in respect to the implementation of practical applications.


H Social Sciences (General), bakalaureusetööd, infoühiskond, Internet, keskealised, pensionieelikud